apple nerd

Apple Video Series – Taking iPhone Photos

Apple has prepared a series of tutorials about how to take photos with the iPhone 7. Several focus on Portrait mode, but most of them provide good advice for taking photos on any mobile device with a camera.

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iPhone 4S – An Introduction, Not A Review

Apple’s new releases have encouraged a flair for fiscal irresponsibility in me reaching back nearly two decades.
My will was strong as the positive reviews of the MacBook Air began flooding the web, but this is probably due to the higher upgrade cost. I need a new laptop like I need a new iPhone. Besides, iPhones are cheaper.
So, I have a new iPhone 4S.
I knew the 16gb version at the low end wouldn’t be enough and I was pushing the limits on my 32gb iPhone 4. The available stock at the nearby AT&T store helped me select the 64gb 4S. It was all they had left, so that’s the one I got.
It’s my Christmas, birthday, and anniversary gift for the coming year and that’s just fine with me. There aren’t a lot of little things I want, but there are a number of big ticket items on my wish list. Now, there is one less item to worry about.
Now, it’s time to get reacquainted with my new friend Siri. I knew her when she was younger, but we have a lot of catching up to do.

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So, I got a netbook

Coming soon… Posts that aren’t so nerdy!
Julie gave me a netbook last week. My last PC was a 386 with an 80mb hard drive and 8mb of RAM. I replaced it with an Apple Performa 6116CD, which science can carbon date to the early 1990s. I have been a dedicated Mac user ever since and have long-since forgotten how to parse the specs for a Windows machine. The netbook is new to me although this model was released about a year ago.
The keyboard isn’t too shabby compared to other netbooks I’ve used. While it isn’t full size, the keys are large and responsive enough to make it a decent and very portable writing tool (until I can afford a MacBook Air). The additional couple of pounds compressed into my white plastic MacBook seems unbearable now compared to the netbook.
One big step forward for me was securing a Windows license for 1Password, the premiere password management solution for iOS, Mac OS X, and Windows produced by Agile Web Solutions.
Having used Macs exclusively for nearly 20 years now (20 years?!) it seemed like a no-brainer to pick up another Mac license for 1Password with the MacUpdate Spring Bundle I bought three weeks ago. It didn’t take me long after cracking this netbook open last week to realize my mistake. I needed a Windows license for 1Password!
I already own a license for Mac so I crossed my fingers and emailed customer support at 9:22 EST on a Wednesday night asking them to revoke and replace my latest Mac license. “Happiness Engineer” Nik L. responded 13 minutes later at 9:35 with a Windows license. 13 minutes! “Computer Whisperer” Marty S. (love the titles) even followed up at 1:11 a.m. EST to ensure the new license worked for me.
So many people limit their opinions to the bad times. I spent enough time in the service industry to understand the value of positive comments. The company had no obligation to grant my request, but they did.
The folks at Agile Web Solutions displayed unparalleled customer service for what I already knew to be a superior product. My experience was like staying at a hotel and realizing a day or two later you want a different room. You don’t have a good reason, but their staff happily moves all of your things to an identical room across the hall.
There are other password managers for Mac OS X and other platforms, but I have never heard anyone rave about them. Users treasure 1Password. Merlin Mann and others on Dan Benjamin’s 5by5 podcasts mention it regularly. Agile Web Solutions sponsors the MacPowerUsers podcast, but I think hosts Dave Sparks and Katie Floyd would flaunt the cross-platform value of 1Password whether they were paid to or not.
1Password is superior software and Agile Web Solutions’ customer support is prompt and impeccable.
Text editors get regular use on all of my devices all tied together with the indispensable twine Dropbox provides. I rely on nvALT (a variant of the open source Notational Velocity) on my Macs. I never can settle on which horse to ride from my stable full of iOS text editors. My top three picks are:

  • Elements – for search capabilities and general use
  • Nebulous Notes – for macros and superior Markdown integration
  • Notesy – for user interface and choice of using a monospace or proportional typeface per file

My search was quick; ResophNotes fills the void on Windows. Because the interface is nearly identical to nvALT on my Mac, ResophNotes dovetails perfectly into my workflow.
Scrivener is my choice for composing longform articles, research-based writing, and incubating book ideas. I committed to using Scrivener several years ago after finding Literature & Latte. Software developer Keith Blount knew exactly how to make writers happy because he happens to be an author himself. He wrote the program to serve his own writing needs and selflessly shared his work with us.
The Windows version is a relatively new venture–still in beta as I write this–but should be available for release soon. I look forward to adding a license soon after Scrivener’s imminent non-beta release.
It seems like everyone has something good to say about Dropbox. The company’s version of cloud storage is a must-have tool that should be installed by default on every single new computing device on every platform. If you don’t have it, get it.
The netbook came with a relatively impressive collection of fonts, but I had to add two more free ones–Inconsolata and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono–to keep my wits about me in a text editor. I’m still debating whether I need something as powerful as TextMate for the netbook and I’m open to suggestions for a Windows replacement.

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Writing Anywhere and Everywhere

Writing applications are growing as plentiful and affordable as the number of platforms on the market to help me record my thoughts. I am using this blog to review and define my system of capturing ideas.
I no longer have to wait until I have my favorite notebook and pen or return to my computer desk. Smart phones like the Apple iPhone and other devices running Android are great for capturing ideas or even making progress on longer work.
For the record, I prefer the iPhone and will focus on iOS apps and work on a Mac so you can stop reading now if that’s not how you roll. I didn’t write this to tell you what you should do, but if it works for you then that’s terrific. This article is selfishly focused on helping me work better.
I’ve narrowed the types of words I capture to three types, and use different applications on different platforms depending on my environment.

1. Notes

My iPhone is always at hand, making it a nearly perfect “ubiquitous capture tool” (to use the lingua franca of GTD) for basic notes. If I overhear something interesting or funny, I jot it down. Think of something I don’t want to forget? This is the perfect tool to help me remember it.
One offs. Lists. Scribbled thoughts. Nothing formal here, just random thoughts. A few bits of reference I want to have with me all the time. I periodically review and process these notes to create or supplement projects or delete them.
How I get notes into my iPhone depends on the situation. I use JotAgent to fire off a quick note. The app creates a new file stamped with the date and time down to the seconds. This ensures I won’t have two files of the same name and I can add a description later when I process my notes.
Applications I Use: JotAgent and Elements on the iPhone. [Notational Velocity][41] on the Mac (I prefer Brett Terpstra’s variant [nvALT][42]).
Honorable mention: MarkdownMail, Nebulous Notes, Plaintext, Simplenote, and Writeroom (for iPhone and Mac).

2. Research

Some notes are more refined than others, and I am going to call these research notes. These are notes that may drive my writing to some end, or maybe notes from meetings I attend.
This is an area where I struggle. I still take notes the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, and I haven’t figured out how to digitize those notes. I know the LiveScribe pen is one option, but it just doesn’t sound right to me. I don’t think I would like it.
I tried pairing an Apple bluetooth keyboard with my iPhone. It works, but it’s still a clunky kludge and not much better than using a laptop.
The iPad 2 is appealing—the MacBook Air, too—but I don’t have the spare capital to swing either purchase right now.
Applications I Use: Elements on the iPhone. Scrivener and TextMate on the Mac, which I keep coupled together using QuickCursor.
Honorable mention: DEVONthink Pro and Yojimbo for data storage and retrieval.

3. Work

Snippets grow into notes, and ideas develop into a novel, a blog post, or a research paper. A note captured while walking to the mailbox could grow into a masterpiece to export later into LaTeX or some other formatted output for publication.
Applications I Use: Scrivener and TextMate, MarsEdit for blog posts, Pages for print.
Honorable mention: Mellel, Microsoft Word, Pagehand.

Text Editors

BBEdit, TextMate, Text Wrangler, Ulysses
All of my writing that ends up being worth anything spends a good deal of life in a text editor before publication in print or online. TextMate is my weapon of choice, and my bullets are written using Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown, which extends the formatting capabilities of John Gruber’s original Markdown.
MultiMarkdown is a markup language that allows for semantic text editing. As a plain text file it is infinitely portable and flexible. The file can be exported to Rich Text Format, LaTeX, HTML, and other formats for further processing before publication.
Ulysses is another kind of semantic text editor worth a closer look.

Word Processors

Mellel, Microsoft Word, Pagehand, Pages
Word processors do more than edit text. They allow you to pick different fonts, adjust margins, and all kinds of other fiddly activities you should really avoid unless you are actually finished writing. Until then, I’ll stick to a text editor and recommend you do the same.
You would be amazed how liberating a simple monospaced font can be for your writing. Try it.
Microsoft Word is my least favorite word processor, but it’s a necessary evil because it is so deeply ingrained in office culture. If you need to share a file and preserve formatting, you’re probably going to need Word.
Having said that, I only use it when I must share my files with someone else. If someone sends me a file, I open it in TextEdit or Path Finder’s text editor.

Outliers and additions

Evernote is a terrific application. I keep trying to work it into my workflow, but it just doesn’t fit. David Sparks summed up my feelings during the podcast he records with fellow attorney Katie Floyd. About 19 minutes into their episode titled Taking Notes on Mac OS X and iOS he said, “Evernote is, in my case, an elegant solution where I don’t have a problem.”
That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking but lacked the eloquence to package my thoughts.
OmniOutliner Pro can’t be beat for making outlines, but for some reason it slips off my radar when I’m at a point where it makes sense. I crank out most of my outlines in a Markdown text file, but OmniOutliner is the ultimate outlining tool on the Mac.
TextExpander (and it’s iPhone counterpart TextExpander Touch) is the glue that holds my writing life together. Apps that have a hook for TextExpander to grab onto don’t get a lot of use from me.

Thoughts on file names

I’ve tried some naming schemes that got awfully convoluted, but they got to the point that I couldn’t remember what was what. I’ll probably make it difficult for myself again, but for now I stick with dating each file and providing a brief descriptive name. Like this:

2011-03-06 brief descriptive name

See? Easy!
Just remember to lay down some context for your notes or you may find yourself a bit lost in the days, weeks, or months to come.


Like I said in the beginning, this article is an exercise to help me define how I work. I hope it helps you in some way, but recommend that you try several options to see what works best for you.

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Twitter for iPhone Cursed Itself

My recent review of Twitter of iPhone:

Twitter for iPhone was perfect and life was flawless until someone got that glint of pride.
Thinking they could be better than perfec, they went too far and were cast down from the light to wallow in agonizing hell for all eternity to consider the folly of its pride.
many apologies to John Milton
Twitter! Tear down this banner!
apologies to Ronald Reagan RIP

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∞ Thirty Percent

Eddie perfectly sums up Apple’s much-discussed 30 percent cut in the iOS App Store. Amen and pass it on.
∞ Thirty Percent:

Apple isn’t taking jack from you because without Apple you wouldn’t have a business developing iOS apps. Plain and simple. People really need to get this. If Apple did not create, maintain, pay for, hire people, construct, scheme, profit from the App Store — there would be no App Store to speak of.

(Via The Brooks Review)